INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is reporting the first influenza-related death in Indiana of the 2017-2018 flu season. The patient was under age 18.
State health officials report influenza, or flu, activity is increasing in some areas of the state, with outbreaks being reported at some long-term care facilities. Fifty-four percent of the influenza-like illness specimens submitted to the ISDH Laboratory tested positive for flu in the week ending Dec. 2, 2017.
“Unfortunately, we are already seeing some heartbreaking consequences of the flu in Indiana,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “With influenza activity on the rise, I encourage anyone who hasn’t gotten a flu shot to get one to help protect themselves and their loved ones.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. Dr. Box said that because infants under 6 months can’t be vaccinated, it’s important that anyone in a household where a young baby lives or visits get a flu shot to protect the child.
Healthcare workers also are urged to get a flu vaccine to reduce their risk of transmitting illness to their patients.
Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread by respiratory droplets released when infected people cough or sneeze nearby or when people touch surfaces or objects contaminated with those infectious respiratory droplets. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses, people who are immunocompromised and the elderly. It is especially important for these individuals to be vaccinated each year.
Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:
- fever of 100° Fahrenheit or greater
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
People can help prevent the spread of flu by washing their hands frequently and thoroughly, avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth with their hands and staying home when sick. Hoosiers should practice the “Three Cs” to help prevent the spread of flu and other infectious diseases:
- Clean: Properly wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
- Cover: Cover your cough and sneeze into your arm or a disposable tissue.
- Contain: Stay home from school or work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
To learn more about influenza or to view the ISDH weekly flu report, which is updated each Friday, click here.